Fears, Sneers, Electioneers, and the Giant Rat of Sumatra

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

—George W. Bush

“Shakin’ in the bedroom, covers on your head. Cringing like a baby at the hand beneath the bed.”

—Robert Hunter

The Great Mole Rat

Ah yes… the creeping fear, the heebie-jeebies, the blood-curdling case of the willies, the sack-shriveling horror at thoughts of something dark, dry, and soulless scuttling out of the closet and making a gruesome meal of you. There’s just a whole boatload of fun in having the shit scared out of you, isn’t there? I mean, it’s no coincidence that so many people, when asked, will tell you that their favorite holiday is Halloween. Something about that old, musty, creaky, cobwebby, haunted old attic space in our minds is just too damned appealing for us to avoid.

Oh sure, we say we’re afraid of nightmares, and some of us play this game to the point where we’re willing to medicate ourselves to avoid these nightmares, but the fact of the matter is that there is something in us that compels us to revisit these places in our dreams. We like to be so startled that we whiz in our drawers. We love to be so horrified that we can’t bear to unsquinch our eyes and pull our hands away from our ears. We adore the feeling that the Great Lurking HideBehind is constantly right back there, just outside our field of vision, waiting patiently to leap out in front of us and gut us like a Tennessee roastin’ pig with one quick “snicker-snak” of its razor-sharp talons.

And what we really seem to love most of all is a ghoulie that cannot be killed. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, Jason, Freddy, Paul Wolfowitz… we get off on the shit that comes at us, we whack it in the melon with an axe, and the thing just sits back up, puts the top of its skull back on, and just keeps coming at us. I guess it’s an economical thing… more bang for your boogeyman buck if you can keep getting chased by the same damned thing over and over.

Of course, there’s nobody who can scare the shit out of us better and more consistently than we, ourselves can. I recently stumbled across this great little site, The Phobia List, and although far be it from me to make sport of somebody else’s hang-ups… some hang-ups absolutely demand to be made fun of. Some others… well, okay, if lightning hits me then it hits me, but some of this stuff just spawns too damned good a mental image to leave alone.

Which brings us to the gem of gems, the alpha-freak…

No, I didn’t dream this up on a crazed methamphetamine and Sterno jag. Zemmiphobia. It actually appears in virtually every list of phobias presently online. Nobody seems to know from whence it comes, nor does anyone know what the Great Mole Rat is in the first place. In short, this is the most brilliant pop-psychiatric phobia ever dreamed up! Not only is it weirdly vague enough to realistically apply to virtually anything, and dorky enough to be absolutely brimming with big-ticket kitsch value, but it even has a suitably legitimate-sounding name! “Better make it a double on that Xanax scrip, Doc… my Zemmiphobia is really dicking with me this month.”

Plus, at its most literal, it’s about a mysterious giant rodent that I’m quite sure no self-respecting Zemmiphobe has ever seen before. I’m picturing the Snuffleuppagus crossbred with a real tooth-gnasher of a subterranean varmint. Perhaps wearing some sort of waistcoat for that Lewis Carroll effect. But what does he do? He can’t just snuffle up to you and bamboozle you with his waistcoat. He’s got to, for example, talk in pornographic anagrams or something along those lines. In a deep southern accent. Yeah, that’s better. Suddenly, out of the shadows, the Great Mole Rat sidles up to you, deftly adjusts his waistcoat, and intones “Reh naghive assbert hadec twih reside, y’all.”

I mean, be fair. Whose bowels wouldn’t let go at that point?

The Great Mole Rat… I guess that could serve a good function as a suitably cartoonish image for big ol’ goofy-ass runaway fears, couldn’t it? The ones we just can’t seem to get rid of, and which we therefore love so much. Yep, the Great Mole Rat… it’s always lurkin’, it’s always plottin’, it’s always waiting for us to drop our guard, maybe when we’re sleeping, or perhaps having a nice, satisfying crap. Although if we do both simultaneously… well, the Great Mole Rat is powerful, but not that powerful. You done shat your drawers while you were asleep, then that was all you. Can’t go blaming the rat for that one.

Though you could conceivably blame George Bush for it. I mean, he’s screwed up so damned much else that his existing screw-ups could certainly be feeding off of themselves and independently causing… well, people to shit themselves in the dead of night, for example; steaks to spontaneously overcook despite the best efforts of their 12 Old Styles to the wind Grillmeisters; cell phones to go dead in the middle of a really hot 1-900 call; Ashton Kutscher movies to actually turn a profit; locusts…

Okay, so let’s review: It’s two months before the November election (one month by the time y’all read this) and we’ve got an incumbent “war president” who is at best dead even in the polls with his challenger. He has nothing in his record that he can realistically run on: The economy is still looking more like a stagnant puddle than the rolling, rollicking river it is when it’s actually healthy (remember that?); our environment is quickly being turned into a complete shithole, largely because the Bush administration is allowing big industry to circumvent anti-pollution measures practically at will; health care access in this country is a sad joke, especially if you’re a veteran; our so-called “liberation” of Iraq is slowly, relentlessly spiraling down the drain; al Qaeda is stronger and more widespread than ever; and Osama bin Laden has been on the loose for so long that al Qaeda has now almost certainly grown and decentralized past the point where taking out bin Laden would make any real difference even if Bush could get the job done.

In other words, Bush’s presidency is as failed now as it was six months ago. We’ve just got six months of additional examples of how and why.

So, he can’t exactly run on his record, now can he? In fact, he and his handlers know full well that they can’t realistically talk about any significant issues, because Bush has rotten egg on his face on virtually all of them.

Therefore, what we get from BushCo instead, passing for “campaign strategy”, is an endless string of diversionary tactics. If the challenger gets a bump in the polls or, God forbid, takes part in his party’s political convention, then suddenly it’s time for Tom Ridge to pull out his terror threat color wheel and give it a spin. So, it came as absolutely no surprise to anyone that when John Kerry looked to have had a very successful run at the Democratic National Convention, we suddenly got socked with an Orange Alert terror warning. Oh yes, the Great Mole Rat was a-coming to get us, and it was our obligation to, as one, drop everything and cower in abject terror until the Bushies rang the “all clear” bell.

Fortunately, the American people seem to have gotten a little smarter than all that, and so immediately everyone shrugged and went on about their business. The Bushies had been crying “WOLF!!” on this one for so long that only the true Zemmiphobes among us took them seriously (well, and the local and state governments were forced to front money they didn’t have to add additional first-responder units that they didn’t need). And, of course, it came out within a few days that the information they were basing the Orange Alert on was from early 2001, and they were just… oh, what’s the word… bullshitting us again.

Now, when you try to bullshit somebody and they don’t buy it, what’s the logical next step? To be honest for once in your life? Naw… that’s just crazy talk. Fake an epileptic seizure in a painfully transparent attempt to gain sympathy? No, and at least Bush was just smart enough to realize that nobody bought his little pretzel shtick a couple years ago. Give it all up and take rumba lessons? Now that would have probably saved us all a lot of unnecessary hassle, but no…

No, in this case the powers that be decided that the best course of action, when their frantic attempts to scare the shit out of us failed, would be to… blab the name of one of the only moles (moles??) we had infiltrating al Qaeda. And when I say “we”, I mean, of course, the Pakistanis. “We”, the United States, have had about as much luck tracking down and capturing al Qaeda members as, say, the fine citizens of Pango-Pango have had getting an ice-fishing league together. Almost all of the progress made against al Qaeda has been done by other countries, particularly Pakistan. But of course, since Shrubbie declared a “War On Terr’r” a few years back, he’s deluded enough to believe that any and all successful moves against al Qaeda that any other nation makes absolutely must be due solely to his incomparable leadership. After all, his entire life has been spent allowing everyone else to do his work, both dirty and otherwise, for him. Why should anything have changed now?

So, the man who didn’t get his first job until he was forty years old decides that we’re all being ingrates for not collapsing in knee-jerk horror when his sidekick Ridge flashed a big orange warning about the Evil Ones coming to kill us because they cased some buildings in New York City in early 2001. (Hey Georgie, y’know… I think they went ahead with the little NYC shindig they were planning at that point, remember? Yeah, I’m recalling something about you, a pile of rubble, a megaphone, a dazed firefighter, and a purposely doctored clean air report) So, in order to prove that this was some seriously serious seriousity (seriously!) he left it to his inner circle to do something about it. Geniuses that they are, they settled upon releasing to the press a suitably frightening-sounding Arab name.

Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan… holy shitballs!! There’s a “Mohammad” in there, and that can’t be good… “Naeem Noor”? Oh my Christ! What the hell does “Naeem Noor” mean? It’s got to be something about murder or fireballs or hummus or something like that, I just know it! And KHAN??? I mean, do we even have to spell it out? A superhuman product of late 20th century genetics who was stranded with his people on Ceti-Alpha V after trying to take over a top-of-the-line starship, and now he’s escaped and has vowed to kill Admiral Kirk! And anyone who gets in his way will be swatted like an insect! We’re all doomed… doomed, I say!

The inner circle said that this fearsome emissary of the Great Mole Rat had been captured before he could help set into motion something Really Really Really Bad and that’s why we all have to walk around in a sufficiently panicked state until after Election Day, and of course vote Der Leader a second term in which to make us… what’s the slogan that BushCo tried out awhile back? “Safer. Stronger.”

Problem is, this fearsome agent of Giant Mole Ratdom had already been flipped, and was using his access to help the Pakistani and British governments infiltrate al Qaeda and to spring a trap on a particularly large terrorist cell. “Was” being the key phrase here… obviously, there’s a bit of a problem keeping an undercover operative doing his thing when you’ve given his name to the organization he’s supposed to be infiltrating. In the vernacular of the intelligence community, it’s what’s generally known as a Fucking Stupid-Ass Thing To Do.

Yeah, BushCo certainly has some cool heads and sharp tacks making the tough choices, don’t they? They’re kind of like having a perpetually drunk buddy who’s constantly trying to pick up women for you at bars, whether you want him to or not. True, you’re not going to get laid unless you get in the game, but… well, I think that this is a rather broad interpretation of “getting in the game,” don’t you? And it certainly isn’t going to get you laid.

It will make you freak out after awhile though, which is exactly what the Bush campaign is hoping we’ll all do. And then, with twitching, trembling hands, we’ll pull it together long enough to punch “George W. Bush” on our handy-dandy Diebold electronic voting contraptions in November. And if we don’t, if we happen to slip up and punch in a vote for the other guy, well then the good folks at Diebold have our backs on that one, and it will register as a vote for Bush anyway, since they know that’s what we meant to do.

Of course, let’s not forget… John Kerry’s main area of support comes not from people who see him as the best choice to lead this nation, but rather from those who see him as the only conceivable way of running BushCo out of office. In other words, like El Shrubbo, Kerry’s biggest political weapon is also knee-knocking fear. Fear of what BushCo might turn this nation into with four years of a lame duck presidency. As demented and despicable as they’ve been throughout their last three-and-a-half years in office, a second four years with absolutely nothing to lose is likely to do an awful lot of damage to this nation and to our standing in the world.

After all, the rest of the world is currently giving us, the American people, a mulligan on this thing. They know that more of us voted for Little Wooden Boy in 2000 (and but for the anachronistic Electoral College ensuring that a vote by a living, breathing human being here in Chicago counts just as much as the vote of an empty tract of inhospitable land out in Nevada, George W. Bush would be back in Texas running pump-and-dump stock schemes with his buddies instead of waging a holy war against the Middle East), and that even those who voted for Bush didn’t grasp the fact that he was going to be this dangerous and inept a leader. So, the rest of the world is willing to give the American people a pass on this last four years as long as we don’t vote to give BushCo another four years. Otherwise, we lose all credibility and the rest of the world treats us like the guy you know is always farting on the elevator.

And so, John Kerry has his own Great Mole Rat to scare people into doing what he wants them to, which is to go out and vote for him. But naturally, the Bushies have to outdo him in that department, so they’ve gotten a group of pissed-off old Vietnam Vets to run a smear campaign against Kerry (using money from the same deep pockets that fund Bush’s campaign, oddly enough) alleging that his entire Vietnam service record is bullshit, that he just sat on a boat shooting himself over and over again until he got enough Purple Hearts to be sent home (as well as a Bronze Star and a Silver Star, which he apparently fashioned out of old bean tins and roach clips and awarded to himself in between Purple Heart attempts while the Bactine was still too stingy and he needed to think about something else because oh Gawd was it stingy and burny!), and that he then came home and banged Jane Fonda on the altar of a church, then proceeded to go around speaking French and reading aloud from the Koran and then (*gasp!*) he squeezed the Goddamned Charmin RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF OLD MAN WHIPPLE!!

Is any of this true? Well, see, it doesn’t matter. The idea, and the Republicans have been reigning champs at this for decades now, is to just throw the dirt out there and get the media talking about it so that the smear-ee has to go on TV and respond to it as if it’s legitimate. It’s merely a slight expansion of the dirty tricks that the Republicans have proudly relied upon since at least the Nixon administration.

See, back then the Nixon campaign had a little weasel of a guy named Donald Segretti running dirty tricks on the Democrats, particularly in connection with the ’72 election. Segretti had gotten a reputation as a go-to guy for this sort of thing when he was in college, and he just kept getting tapped to run smear campaigns after he graduated. Oddly enough, one of his most able young lieutenants during the ’72 campaign was a 21-year-old Young Republican from Texas named Karl Rove. Yep, Bush’s main hatchet man learned his trade under one of Nixon’s main hatchet men. Isn’t that just precious. Like a Zen master and his protégé… only instead of Zen masters, they’re professional scumbags. But other than that, that’s one solid analogy there, lemme tell ya.

Oh, and strangely enough (or perhaps not so strangely as one might think) they had a name for their particular brand of smear campaigns and character assassinations. A cute little pet name… they called it “ratfucking”.

See, it’s that goddamned Great Mole Rat again, come to… uh… to do… whatever it is that the Great Mole Rat does. It’s fearsome, though. Oh yes, I can promise you that. Fearsome and omnipresent. And fearsome. So much so that I’m currently suffering from a slight case of Ankylophobia. Yeah, if somebody doesn’t pass me that joint in a few seconds here, I’m gonna lose it, and lose it in a very loud, verbose manner… and that’s gonna set off all you Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobes out there, and then I’ll start getting threatening phone calls in the night, and sudden wake-ups like that aren’t good for my Almostnaileddanadelaneyexceptthedamnedphonerangandwokemyassupophobia.

And I don’t think any of us want to live with the dire consequences of something like that, do we?

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